Keep calm and drink Vietnamese beer !
Ahh! Beer. What sounds and images does your mind conjure up when you see this word? Is it the clinking of glasses? The crisp crack and pop of a cold beer can being opened? The chatter and noise of a pub? Does a particular brand pop into your head? Maybe you don’t even like beer. I mean, I don’t. I prefer cider and sweeter tasting alcohol to get me buzzed. But a lot of people seem to disagree with me, and I mean, A LOT of people.
Clearly, the love for beer is universal, and the folks in Vietnam are no exception.
Source: Beer Journal (2016)
94% of all alcoholic beverages consumed in Vietnam is beer, that’s almost a monopoly. That along with the lucrative prospects of the beer market in Vietnam means that many large conglomerates have been trying to penetrate and gain market share for many years ever since the country opened up, competing with many well-loved and cherished local brands such as Bia Saigon (Sabeco), Bia Hanoi (Habeco), Saigon Special, Halida,…to name a few.
Many good reasons to travel to Vietnam, 16 to be exact.
Now, it would not be a quality post about Vietnamese beer if one does not mention Bia Hoi a.k.a draught beer. Draught beer is matured for a shorter period (7-10 days) than bottled beer and pasteurized. No preservatives are added during fermentation or brewing. When the product is ready, it is extracted into kegs, sterilized with compressed air, hot water, sodium hydroxide solution, and hot steam*. These kegs are then delivered to bars or corner shops that will proceed to serve the beer directly from the keg. Because of its short maturing period and lack of preservatives, its shelf life is shorter, its sugar content and alcohol content is also lower at around 3%. It is typically priced between 3000vnd and 7000vnd which is equivalent to 15 US cents to 35 US cents per 12oz bottle, making it a fraction of the price of any Western beer**.
Another reason to travel to Vietnam.
It is common knowledge that beer should be enjoyed cold and not poured onto ice which can dilute the beer and ruin the taste. However, Bia hoi is usually drunk with ice cubes in Vietnam, which strangely does not seem to affect the taste of the beer.
Beer culture in Vietnam
I think it has been well-established through the last few posts that there is a theme here. The Vietnamese love to consume food and drinks on little plastic stools lined up on the street or the sidewalk. It is always such a lovely scene to observe: people from all walks of life mixing together.
Naturally, beer is usually enjoyed in much the same way as seen in the picture above. However, aside from the usual street corner shops, Bia Hoi can also be found in specialized “bia hoi” restaurants that serve only draught beer and “đồ nhắm” a.k.a accompanying snacks like peanuts, roasted squids, chicken feet, etc.
Beer and peanuts - a match made in heaven.
Drinking Bia hoi with colleagues after work is a common past time for male office workers in Vietnam. They usually head to “bia hoi” restaurants and sometimes can spend the whole night there, albeit with the disapproval of their wives weighing on their shoulders.
A Bia Hoi restaurant a.k.a Quan Nhau in Ho Chi Minh city.
It is also not an uncommon sight to see business discussions in “bia hoi” restaurants. Like many other Asian culture, business relationships are built on camaraderie through sharing food and drinking.
Youngsters head to spots in the Old Quarter if in Hanoi, or backpackers’ streets in Ho Chi Minh City to enjoy their beer while chatting with friends. The proximity of these “bia hoi” restaurants and corner shops to bars and pubs makes them perfect for pre-gaming before a night of partying.
No matter which way you choose to enjoy it, Vietnamese beer is definitely different with a taste and drinking style of its own.
Head over to Vietcentric’s Acoustic Night (click me) for a chance to enjoy Vietnamese beer and live music !
* and ** cited from "A Guide to Vietnamese Beer" by itour.vn